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Welcome to Historic Voices: Global History and Culture. Learn from the past through voices that made history. The podcast brings voices from the past that make history alive through personal accounts, public speeches, and entertainment programs.  Their voices are political leaders, ordinary citizens who lived during extraordinary times, and entertainers who helped Americans live through difficult times. 

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Jun 19, 2017

The President’s speech is typical for many of the recent U.S. presidents. He began with a quick review of the past and especially the world wars the U.S. has been engaged and the role of the country as peacemaker to help build a better future.

Then, he turns to the new challenges which are domestic rather than international. Eisenhower expresses his worry that the U.S. has embraced a permanent armaments industry with the export of weapons around the world. This was a radical change in the U.S. which previously only turned to building of weapons when the country faced immediate aggression. He introduces a new world to the U.S. vocabulary, “industrial-military complex”. Building weapons has become as important as building cars and appliances for the average American. Eisenhower worried that American universities seemed more interested in attracting huge government military contracts that engaged in scientific discovery. He also was concerned about Congress and how they were being influenced by the industrial-military complex through their campaign contributions.

In recent years, industries that build weapon systems often distribute their production to as many states as possible. In some cases, 30 or more states producing components for a single system like an aircraft. By doing so, new jobs are created in the home districts of congressional leaders which encourages their votes for military appropriations and productions in the factories located in their states.

Rather than building up weapon systems, Eisenhower as the former general and supreme-commander of allied forces encourages disarmament and seeking to resolve differences through negotiation rather than threat of war with even more ferocious weapons.

I encourage you to read the PDF document on the backstory on his warning of the American people with the “industrial-military complex.” The article also provides insights into writing of the speech by a collection of speech writers who especially fought over the section of the speech talking about the industrial military complex and the changing research interests of universities. Speech writing is an enormously complicated and political process that involves many with the speaker as the final editor.